Israel Bans Travellers from the UK

Israel has barred foreign nationals from the UK, Denmark and South Africa from entering the country, in response to the announcement on Saturday that a new strain of COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly in the UK than previous strains.

Passengers at Ben-Gurion airport in 2016Passengers at Ben-Gurion airport in 2016 (photo: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, confirmed on Saturday that the new strain seems to be responsible for the rapid growth in numbers of infections in the South East of the country, and that they had notified the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A few cases of the new strain have been identified in Denmark and a separate new strain identified in South Africa, which is why Israel have included those two countries in the travel ban.

Unsurprisingly, Israel’s government is keeping a close eye on developments in Britain, as it begins to roll out its own nationwide vaccination programme, which started just yesterday.

Around 130 passengers who landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon on two flights from London were sent to quarantine hotels as a result of the new measures – much to their surprise, because they only found out about them when they landed.

They were initially taken to an isolated area in the airport terminal, to be tested for coronavirus, and were then taken to isolation in state-run hotels.

As many as 30 of the passengers refused to go into quarantine in hotels, prompting airport authorities to call police to the airport to deal with the situation. Eventually those 30 boarded flights back to London.

Israel is by no means the only country barring travellers from the UK. Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland were quick to respond with bans on flights; and many other countries are following their lead, including Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

Although there is no proof to suggest that the new strain reacts differently to vaccines. The fact that it is estimated to be as much as 70 percent more transmissible is clearly causing widespread concern in countries that are already struggling to contain surges in numbers of infections.